#JuniorGP Round 2, Valencia – Raceday roundup
It was a stunning second round of the 2023 Finetwork FIM JuniorGP™ World Championship at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain. It was a mighty display with first-time winners and rookie revelations headlining throughout a packed day of action. In the JuniorGP™ class, Angel Piqueras (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) finally took victory and doubled up, whilst in the Moto2™ European Championship, honours went to Senna Agius (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP Junior Team), making it three from three. In a day of domination, Maximo Quiles (Aspar Junior Team) checked out in both European Talent Cup races in emphatic fashion and Daniel Muñoz (SP57 Racing Team) took a second Stock™ European Championship win of 2023.
Starting with the JuniorGP™ races, it really was a master vs the apprentice feel, with Race 1 being a battle between the rookie exuberance of Joel Esteban (Aspar Junior Team) from a career-first pole, whilst Angel Piqueras’ seasoned experience saw him right in the mix. Championship leader Nico Carraro (Aspar Junior Team) was right in the mix too but due to exceeding track limits, was forced to take a Long Lap Penalty and the battle for fourth soon became a battle for third. Onto the last lap, Piqueras hit the front at Turn 1 and got ahead of Esteban, who couldn’t retaliate. Piqueras took a first victory of his JuniorGP™ career and thus became the 50th different winner since 2012. Esteban was second, whilst taking a hard-earned podium, Luca Lunetta (AC Racing Team) denied Jacob Roulstone (Aspar Junior Team). On the last lap at Turn 8, a collision between David Almansa (Finetwork Mir Racing Team) saw both end up in the gravel.
After a short delay to Race 2 for a technical fault, the action was back underway and for the majority of the action, it was a five-rider fight with Piqueras, Esteban, Roulstone, Carraro and Elia Bartolini (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0). A technical issue saw Esteban out in the second half of the race as he slowed up on the front straight, with a four-rider group doing battle through to the last lap. Going onto the final 4km of the race, a brave pass saw Piqueras go from third to first at Turn 11, sitting up Roulstone and Carraro ahead of him. Carraro was wide and Bartolini saw an opportunity, but collided with his fellow countryman and both crashed. Piqueras was left to double up whilst Roulstone fought through the drama for a first podium. Alvaro Carpe (STV Laglisse Racing) took a mighty third, with plenty of reason to celebrate on the podium. Eddie O’Shea (British Talent Team) was top talent team rider in sixth, whereas Carraro remounted for 12th. Piqueras is the new Championship leader heading to Jerez.
With just one race on the billing for the Moto2™ ECh, Senna Agius never looked threatened as he once again swept the field away to take a fine victory, his third of the season. In second place after a strong ride and resisting a late challenge from behind, it was a career-best result for Italian star Mattia Rato (AGR Team), who returned his team to the podium and likewise moved up in the Championship standings to second. Completing the podium after a scary start, where he got away much slower than his rivals, Carlos Tatay (Pertamina SAG Racing Team) fought back to finish third, denying Roberto Garcia what would have been a first podium in the category. Elsewhere, Harrison Voight’s (Yamaha Philippines Stylobike Racing Team) front row start wasn’t converted as he had a Long Lap Penalty to serve, then outbraked himself at Turn 8 before crashing out all together at Turn 6; he was thankfully OK. Agius remains the Championship leader with a perfect 75 points achieved.
The ETC races were absolutely electric; in Race 1, one of the greatest comebacks through the field that we’ve ever seen was accomplished, as Maximo Quiles – who was scheduled to start from pole – had to go from 25th on the grid on row nine due to riding slowly in all sectors during qualifying; he also had a Long Lap Penalty to serve. In the early laps, defending title winner Guido Pini (AC Racing Team), Alberto Ferrandez (Finetwork Mir Racing Team), standings leader Brian Uriarte (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Dodo Boggio (Aspar Junior Team) to name all but a few, battled it out in classic ETC fashion, but before half-race distance, it was Quiles who came on through and hit the front at Turn 1, before clearing off into the distance for a stunning first win of 2023. Casey O’Gorman (VisionTrack Racing Team) was in the mix behind, along with Jesus Rios (MRE Talent), but the latter crashed with Ferrandez and O’Gorman at the final corner on the last lap. Pini took second, whilst Rico Salmela (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) came through for P3. Quiles’ win from P25 sets a new record for a win from the lowest grid slot, a record that stood since Matteo Patacca won from P17 in Valencia, 2018.
O’Gorman was out injured in Race 2 as his luckless start to 2023 season continued; going from pole and grabbing the holeshot on his way to a dominant double, Quiles was unrivalled at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit as he made it two wins, with three podiums from the first four races of 2023. The battle was fierce behind though and it was once again a final lap showdown. After looking for P2, Pini had to serve a Long Lap Penalty in the closing stages for exceeding track limits, which saw Uriarte and Ferrandez capitalise to complete the podium. Dodo Boggio (Aspar Junior Team) took fourth, but the day belonged to Quiles, who is the standings leader leaving Valencia by five points over Uriarte.
Concluding the day of action, the Stock™ class. However, there was a red flag on Lap 2 after Daniel Brooks’ (Yamaha GV Stratos) bike expired, leaving his teammate Mihail Florov and Eric Fernandez (FAU55 TEY Racing) on the floor. After a delay as the track was cleared up, a new 12-lap race distance was set and it was a tense stand-off from Estoril winner and polesitter Daniel Muñoz and Fernandez, who remounted his bike and made the restart. Fernandez was quicker in the second half of the lap but it was a strong first half of the lap that gave Muñoz a crucial advantage in the overtaking hotspots, limiting his vulnerability to attack from behind to hold for a second win of the year. Fernandez took second, whilst Dino Iozzo (IUM Motorsports) was a strong third. Muñoz is unbeaten in 2023, thus remains the Championship leader.